Chapter 29

When I arrived home, Jody and Roland were working away at the dining room table. Jody was hunched over a legal pad with notes, Roland leaned over the same notes, hinged at the hip guarding his flawless posture. He also had a short heap of loose notes to his right. Three stacks of thick and narrow paperback books, probably the novels they were considering as texts, were arranged between them. Two-thirds of a large pizza was cooling in the box on the sideboard. I pecked them both on the cheek and examined the pizza for preferred content. “It’s half veggie.” Roland contributed over his shoulder, solving the puzzle of why I was examining the pie.

“You two been at it long?” I asked as I took my first bite of pizza. The cheese was still warm and left a string of residue as I pulled the piece back from my teeth.

“We got here around four or four-fifteen.” Jody sat back and gave me her full attention. “I’m ready to take a break.” She smiled. “How was your day at the shop?”

“Frau Blucher has transferred and won’t be bothering me again.” Jody caught the use of our code-name for Linda Berwick.

“Frau Blucher? The housekeeper from Young Frankenstein, who made the horses go berserk?” Roland asked.

“A woman very much like her.” I immediately regretted introducing the topic in front of our guest.

“I like Cloris Leachman.” Roland was off on his own tangent now and I could relax. “She was perfect in that role. You know Blucher is German for ‘glue’ and that’s why the horses went apeshit when they heard her name.” Roland continued as he sorted his notes into two piles. One pile was obviously for him and one obviously for Jody. “But I preferred Marty Feldman’s character. His hump was always changing sides.” Roland chuckled, most to himself.

“Any chance you can use Young Frankenstein in your new course?” I was eager to keep the conversation from drifting back to me, and my conflicts at work.

“If there was, you can rest assured we would.” Jody added in mock seriousness. “We haven’t really talked much about films to use. Going with Maureen’s thoughts about pairing the historical with the literary, we are choosing through the novels first. Since Tale of Two Cities was embedded in the curriculum, we ought to find a film about the French Revolution…I can happily research that one.”

“Two Solitudes or The Stone Angel are typical Canadian content.” Roland mused out loud.

“We always called it “Stoned Angel.” I cut in with a snort. Roland was not amused by my adolescent recollection and delivered a look of full disdain.

“Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” he muttered under his breath.

“A little harsh Roland.” Jody chastised with a smile. “Remember, Beckett became a saint.”

“Stone Angel has its own movie….so does A Handmaid’s Tale.” I continued, ignoring them both.

“The movie must be a compliment though, a device to highlight the relevance of the story. Not a reiteration of the story.” Jody was talking more to herself than to us. “Mississippi Burning against To Kill a Mockingbird…” Jody was also thinking out loud. Then, with delight she turned and announced “Did I tell you Hattie, Luke McGinn the new History teacher is on board and interested in joining up to develop the pilot course?”

“That’s great news!” I was delighted. This project was something Jody could get her teeth into. “Will he be here next Friday night? We’ll need more pizza!” And I bit into another slice. How about the Art guy?

“Dickie Vereen?” Boomed Roland. He’s still under a rock somewhere!” Both Jody and I were a bit shocked by Roland’s derogation. It was certainly not characteristic. But then Roland collapsed in laughter and we knew he was back to normal.

After we had all taken a few more cracks at films and Art to match the established novels recommended by the curriculum, and after we suggested a few more novels or films to add for good measure, Maureen arrived to fetch Roland, and Jody and I were left to our own good company. I explained the situation with Linda Berwick. By neglecting the nickname Frau Blucher Jody knew I was serious. “I wish we had been invited to talk this through like adults.” I shook my head miserably. “I feel like the problem has just been shuffled away to….I don’t know, like to protect me, keep us apart.”

“Frankly Hattie, I think that’s a good start.” Jody reached for my hand. “You have to trust Rudy. You know that if he thinks there’s a chance this can be resolved any other way he will make it happen. Sometimes….”she paused to chose her words. “Sometimes, you try hard to fix what can’t be easily fixed. Sometimes changing someone else’s mind takes more than you telling them why they should.”

I looked her square in the face. “You think I should let it go when she has made derogatory comments about our relationship?”

Jody’s chuckle surprised me. “If she were the only one, I’d say go catch her up but Sweet Jesus Hattie, we are out there!”

Without getting into detail or naming names, I told her about my conversation with Lowell and his struggles and dilemmas. “He’s not alone in that Hattie. I still get odd looks and I over hear side comments. Sometimes people feel like it’s a good thing to tell me what is said behind my back. It’s just the way things are right now in this stupid world. Let Frau Blucher’s skunk-eyed face freeze that way. You and I are having a pretty good life.”

“Now there’s perspective!” I was comforted by Jody’s disclosures. We didn’t always stumble into conversation about the depths of prejudice that existed. “Do you think it is harder for a guy?”

“Absolutely!” Was her immediate answer. “I can only imagine what that poor cat is going through. People jump to the wrong conclusions over just about everything – especially now that we operate in sound-bites and Facebook posts and not real journalistic critique…”

“Whoa Nellie! You have to sleep in about an hour. Don’t shoot your blood pressure off the map.” I interrupted. “But I do agree.” I resumed the conversation a bit sideways from where we left off. “People take a little bit of information and shape it to fit the common stereotype, even when it takes them down the wrong path. Maybe even especially when it takes them down the wrong path. In mental health, people think they have a bipolar disorder because their mood swings up and down but they don’t stop to think about why and with whom their moods are shifting. Then they argue with me when I suggest otherwise. Like they really want to have a bipolar disorder! They just read a description and don’t do the analysis….and then they want tablets to make it right instead of exploring when and with whom their mood changes…”

“OK.” Jody’s raised hands signaled time-out. “Watch your blood pressure! We can solve all the social problems tomorrow. Right now, I am ready to hit the hay.” As she started toward our room, she turned abruptly to announce: “I sent my poem to Arc poetry magazine…”

“That’s fantastic! How long before you hear back?”

“Dunno. I’ll keep you posted.” Her immediate departure from the room signaled the end of the conversation. I knew well enough that she would worry until she heard back, one way or the other, and unlike me Jody was a private worrier.

 

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Author: hopeisinfectious.ca

My writing experience comprises, almost exclusively, academic papers and technical/ professional reports. However, I have lost faith in these methods as paths to real change. My doctorate is in Education, specifically transformative education and through my research and my work, I have come to the conclusion that people learn more through stories than journal articles. Therefore, instead of investing in the usual strategies for pedagogy, I am leaning toward fiction as a way to change minds about social issues and dilemmas. I believe stories can un-other social interpretations in a way I feel I have failed to in all my academic and professional writing. I hope to convey some alternate ideas about the work I have done for 35 years, as a mental health nurse, psychometrist, educator and administrator.

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